Meditation exercises from the Sutra on Contemplation of the Amitabha Buddha
The meditations included in this volume are extracted from the Contemplation Sutra of the Buddha Amitabha (also called Kanmuryojukyo or Amitayur Dhyana Sutra), which is part of the doctrinal body of the schools of Pure Land Buddhism.
Although the most general teaching at the base of this Sutra is the fundamental importance of the practice of the Nembutsu (the recitation of the name of the Buddha Amitabha), as a means of reaching the Pure Land, the meditations contained in it were adopted for a very long time as a practice supporting for the Nembutsu.
One of the most important works of Shan-tao (one of the most important patriarchs of the Pure Land tradition) is the Kangyosho, a commentary on this sutra, in which he considers the thirteen meditations described in the text as necessary for the achievement of the Pure Land.
The novelty in Shan-tao’s commentary on the numerous writings written before was that he he made the sutra available also to the laics and not only to the community of meditating monks.
Although these views can also be carried out by the laic people, and therefore by people without a particular technical training in meditation, Shan-tao indicates in his commentary some “preparatory” acts for their development. The first of these acts is meditation on the four elements of the body.
Once the mind is freed from its bonds and “illusory thoughts”, the person will be able to begin the cycle of meditations, of a gradually more difficult degree.